Trial opens for faith-healing couple accused of murder in son's burst appendix death

A Washington state couple who had their teenage son anointed with olive oil and prayed over instead of taking him to the hospital when his appendix burst is on trial for murder in the 17-year-old's death.

Faith-healers Gregory and Garnet Swezey of Carlton are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Zachary, who died in March 2009 of a ruptured appendix after falling ill for several days. Opening statements began Thursday in Okanogan County Superior Court, in the northeastern region of the state, where the Swezeys belong to the Church of the First Born, which professes faith healing. The couple reportedly failed to call an ambulance as their son lay dying for days, instead asking church elders to pray for him and anoint him with olive oil, the Wenatchee World reported Wednesday.

The parents told investigators they thought their son had the flu and that he chose not to see a doctor.

Several potential members of the jury were dismissed Tuesday when they said they couldn't be impartial in the case, according to the newspaper. Many expressed strong opinions either in support of the couple or against them.

"This poor family has suffered enough," one potential juror reportedly said during jury selection, adding, "I’d be happy to go on the jury, but the state probably would not want me."

"Religion don’t mend a broken bone. Doctors do," said another juror before he was excused, according to the newspaper.

Click for more on this story from the Wenatchee World

The Associated Press contributed to this report.